At the 2008 Detroit Auto Show, Mazda introduced the newest vehicle of the Nagare Design Concept. As the latest in Mazda’s award-winning and highly acclaimed series of Nagare concept cars, the Furai P2 concept vehicle celebrates 40 years of rotary engine and international motorsports heritage with the raciest interpretation of NAGARE design language to-date.
Furai (pronounced “foo-rye”, Japanese for “sound of the wind”) is the sort of car that could only come from a company that incorporates the “Soul of a Sports Car” into everything it builds, but with an eye toward the future and the environment through the use of renewable fuels. Driving toward sustainability, Furai was initially tuned to operate on 100 percent ethanol fuel, the first time a racing three-rotor rotary engine has been fueled by ethanol. Research continues in earnest with partner BP into other renewable and future fuels, including ethanol gasoline blends like E10.
Franz von Holzhausen, Mazda North American Operations’ (MNAO) Director of Design and the person who lead the team that created the Furai, explains the concept behind the concept, “We were looking for a way to bridge the gap between Mazda Motorsports and the production vehicles in our lineup. The mindsets of road-car and racing car fans are quite different, so the purpose of Furai is to find a meeting point for these disparate interests.”
Instead of mimicking racecar components and design elements in a road car – the strategy preferred by supercar manufacturers – the “Mazda way” was to begin this project with the real McCoy: a Courage C65 chassis that earned its stripes during two seasons of LMP-2 endurance racing in the American Le Mans Series (ALMS). This sports car was successfully campaigned under the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development banner by B-K Motorsports during the 2005 and 2006 seasons. Drivers Jamie Bach, Guy Cosmo, Elliott Forbes-Robinson, and Raphael Matos piloted the car to one victory and a total of nine podium finishes in 15 ALMS events.
“Anticipating future rules changes in the ALMS, we created a new closed cockpit which would be more appropriate for a future production model,” said von Holzhausen. “The major element we did not change is the 450-horsepower RENESIS-based R20B three-rotor rotary engine that provides Furai ample Zoom-Zoom. The ultimate Mazda in our minds is rotary powered; as a company, we have no intention of abandoning that valuable asset. When people think of the very best sports cars in the world, the rotary powered Mazda RX-7 is always on that list.”
Disclaimer: Mazda neither intends to race Furai, nor is it a supercar the company plans to build and sell in the near future. Rather, Furai is a design study that lives between those extremes. Without the restrictions imposed by serial production models, and with the freedom of an autoshow environment, Mazda is using the opportunity to evolve the company’s Nagare design theme one more step closer to reality.